Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Is Anything Wrong With TSW’s Combat?

Syp has a post out today discussing the problems with combat in The Secret World. There were plenty of counterpoints in the commentary, and I plan to include my own below. But first I want to point out two things. (1) At last someone has finally attempted to articulate their issues with TSW combat beyond "It's clunky," and included examples of other games where he thinks the combat is better. (2) I play TSW regularly with Syp, and while we all recognize that the game is not perfect, no game is, and The Secret World has much to recommend it.
"A lack of auto-attack (and resulting finger fatigue of always having to mash buttons"
After thinking about it, I could go either way with this. I guess WoW has auto-attacks, but if I recall correctly, they are all related to melee (except hunters' ranged). The two characters I managed to get to the level cap in WotLK (the last time I played seriously) were casters. Melee damage was insignificant, and the wand auto-cast didn't count since casting another spell discontinued the wand. If I wasn't actively mashing a button for a spell to go off, I wasn't doing any damage, and I certainly wasn't doing any healing.

GW2 includes an auto-attack, but in many ways GW2 combat is even more frenetic than in TSW, due to the weak trinity-mechanics. SWTOR combines the relatively static combat of WoW and EQ2 with no auto-attack at all. And that was some boring combat, if you ask me.

"The pattern of combat, which involves spamming a builder and then eventually firing off your two closers without much variation"
As was addressed by other commenters on Syp's post, this is somewhat situational. Yes, I agree that TSW made us all (WoW) rogues with combo points and finishing moves. But that facilitates the mix-n-match of the various weapons, which all have the build/consume mechanic. And most of my current decks (as they are called) contain far more abilities on some sort of longer cooldown than they do the basic builders and consumers.

I find this lack of variability present in many other games, including the aforementioned WoW and GW2. WoW players may end up with several action bars full of abilities, but the basic ones that are used most frequently do not number higher than about five—ten at most for hybrids. Perhaps the combat style is endemic to the genre. On the other hand, FPS games tend to have only one or two abilities based on the player's chosen weapon, amirite?
"The length of combat, as even a standard mob takes longer to kill in TSW than a contemporary MMO would"
As I pointed out in my own comment on Syp's post, I found combat in TESO disconcertingly brief; though admittedly, I have been playing TSW almost exclusively for quite some now. And I often don't need more than a single rotation of Syp's dreaded build/finish cycle to finish off a typical mob. Some are more durable than others; and much of the time I am running solo, I have stats devoted as much to survivability as to damage. I will admit that some fights seem to drag on, like the Anniversary Golems and the current Flappy raid. In any event, too long or too short is basically in the eye of the beholder. I am generally happy with the length of combat in TSW, versus other games I have played recently.

"You just don’t feel like you’re really hurting the enemy, even with reaction animations — maybe this goes back to the time-to-kill length"
I don't know what to say to this. I have felt like Neo—watching the the numbers fly by—ever since my WoW days. It's one reason I find discussions of caster- or ranged- vs melee-DPS somewhat amusing. It's all a bunch of dice rolls behind a (hopefully) pretty animation. If limbs were flying off, or the opponent (and your player character) were becoming less combat effective throughout the fight, in other games, then I would say TSW combat is inferior in this regard. But I do see much of the same lack of apparent damage in other MMOs.

Dragon Age, on the other hand, is steeped in blood and gore. Before I turned the persistent gore off in the options (thanks for the tip, lothirieth), my character spent virtually the entire time covered in blood spatter. Dexter would have a field day. And the flying blood is plenty of evidence that I damaging my enemies—as are the occasional beheadings.

"Overused and sometimes awkward animations"
This is another function of the MMO genre, from what I can tell. I'm not sure about the awkwardness of the combat animations, but I have some funny pics from cutscenes. The folks from BioWare made a big deal about the responsive animations of the lightsaber users (thrusts, parries, etc.), and other classes. But I never really noticed said animations during gameplay. I may have been too busy watching my action bars and my party health, though. And as was pointed out by Sylow on Syp's post, there are only so many ways you can properly fire an assault rifle, and none of them are flashy moves.

Like GW2 and several other games I've played recently, the limited palette of abilities available during a specific encounter affects this, as well. I have noticed that my characters don't always throw fireballs from the same hand. But when the animation of a spell is throwing a fireball, there are only so many different ways to do so.
"Range combat seems to have an inherent advantage"
This is highly situational. I tend to have one short (shotgun) or melee range weapon and one long range one (AR, Elemental, etc.). In fact, the weapons and abilities have varying ranges across the board. The ranged stuff tends to be highly directional, making situations where you get swarmed almost impossible to survive. Melee weapons, with their PBAoE, are perfect for multiple mobs that are chasing you.  Ranged DPS has some advantages over Melee in focused fire settings like dungeon boss fights. But most people run regular missions with various hybrids of ranged and melee, DPS and survivability.
I personally find the combat of TSW more enjoyable than WoW and EQ2, and on a par with GW2. On top of which, I have found the avatars to be pretty decent for the most part, considering this is meant to be "the real world" and not some fantasy land (I do like cartoonish art styles, too). The storytelling and mystery tops everything else out there, the vaunted SWTOR, in particular. The group dungeons are top notch, with epic fights and intriguing locales. I find the Ability Wheel a fascinating approach to character progression and versatility. There is plenty to like about The Secret World.

As was pointed out by Tyler F.M. Edwards, perhaps some of the "clunkiness" of combat in TSW is really a function of the deck the player is using. I've long held that the game mechanics of TSW revolve around the quiet time spent examining the Ability Wheel for synergies and situational advantages. No one deck will carry a player through the entire game. What works for this fight will get you killed in that one. The Secret World forces you to adapt as you go, and that is uncomfortable. I've raged against having to change favored decks myself. Sometimes that discomfort is too much for people, and they stop playing before they let TSW get under their skin. And that's OK. I didn't stick around for TESO, primarily due to the UI.

But let's call a spade a spade. You don't like the "combat" of TSW because you don't like the preparation it requires.
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